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Some Call Him A National Hero, Others A Militant Terrorist, But For The National Puerto Rican Day Parade Oscar Lopez Is In And Goya And Other Sponsors Are Out

After serving 35 years in prison, Oscar López Rivera had his prison sentence commuted by Barack Obama before leaving office.

López Rivera was the longest-jailed member of the group “Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional” or FALN (they really missed an opportunity there to be called “flan”), a paramilitary group whose mission was complete independence of Puerto Rico by any means necessary, as they saw U.S. rule as unjust and criminal.

López Rivera, however, as the New York Times puts it, is “a Puerto Rican militant associated with a group that carried out a deadly campaign of bombings in New York and other cities in the 1970s and 1980s.” The article also mentions that although López Rivera was convicted of several serious crimes, including robbery and interstate transportation of weapons to commit violent crimes, none of his charges actually involved “carrying out acts of violence.”

Before the end of President Obama’s final term, a petition calling for López Rivera’s release received over 100,000 signatures. Campaigns by several celebrities and politicians were also launched to get him released. Many feel the crime he was most penalized for was “seditious conspiracy,” which NPR’s Latino USA’s documentary on López Rivera said amounts to a “thought crime.” The video also discusses the United Nations’ assertion that colonized people have the right to self-determination by any means necessary.

Many Puerto Ricans celebrated his release. Others can’t forget FALN’s crimes.

Upon his release, López Rivera was invited by Puerto Rican Day Parade officials to attend as a “National Freedom Hero.”

Many of these sponsors have not taken kindly to what they see as a convicted felon, and member of a group responsible for the deaths of at least four people, being given an honorary title at the parade.

Among those sponsors, and the first to pull sponsorship, was Goya, whose headquarters are in New Jersey.

https://www.facebook.com/telenoticiaspr/videos/1645125262181849/

López Rivera has been defending himself in the media.

Credit: mrcTV

He unequivocally denounced violence in an interview recently with Representative Luis Gutiérrez. López Rivera told the New York Times, “I do not have blood on my hands,” also adding, “All colonized people have a right to struggle for its independence using all methods within reach, including force.”

On May 23, 2017, the The Board of Directors of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade posted a response to the controversy around appointing López Rivera and the sponsorship fallout:

“While we cannot predict whether other sponsors and/or organizations might choose not to join us on Fifth Avenue this year, we expect they will do so with the same level of responsibility and professionalism as JetBlue and the Yankees. This community deserves no less. We thank the thousands of individuals, elected officials and community leaders who have expressed their support for the Parade, its 2017 honoree roster, and its commitment to raise awareness about the issues that impact Puerto Ricans across the world, even if some issues might spark a conversation.”

The physical parade goes on, but what will happen to the soul of the parade going forward?

Will it be an inclusive one or one divided by political ideologies, the way so much of this country seems to be at the moment? This could be a moment to come together, but will it be?

We can only hope so.


READ: Puerto Rico Is On The Brink Of Financial Ruin, So It’s Shutting Down A Record Number Of Public Schools


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